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Incident Name: horseback fall
Date: 06/07/2014
Personnel: John Kavchar, Lookout for Signal Peak, Gila National Forest
Age: 62
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: Lookout at Signal Peak, Gila National Forest

Summary: John Kavchar died June 7, 2014, when he and his horse fell in the burned-out area of Signal Peak on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

Photo Credit: USFS

John Kavchar, Fire Lookout at Signal Peak John Kavchar, Fire Lookout at Signal Peak


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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned


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Media Articles and Reports

  • Gila Forest employee found dead alongside his horse

    6/10/2014 | Online Article

    U.S. Forest Service officials on Tuesday (6/10) confirmed the death of a Gila National Forest employee whose body was found Sunday morning (6/7) next to his dead horse along a trail in the national forest.

    John Kavchar, 64, a resident of Silver City, was riding out from the Signal Peak tower after his lookout shift ended about 7 p.m. Saturday (6/7). It was believed that he had gone for a horseback ride before returning to a trailer he stayed in while working in the forest, said Gila National Forest supervisor Kelly Russell. (more at link...)


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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Gila National Forest Signal Peak lookout John Kavchar remembered on Friday; Gila National Forest Signal Peak lookout died in accident June 7

    6/29/20124 | Online Article

    It was a perfect evening to celebrate the rich life of John Kavchar, and an ideal place to do it – in a campground under the tall pines of the Gila National Forest. Kavchar, a lookout for the U.S. Forest Service, died on June 7 when his horse fell down a steep slope in the ashy terrain of the Signal Peak Fire where he had manned his station and discovered the fire. More than a hundred friends gathered Friday evening to eat, drink and remember him.

    At 62, Kavchar had lived a number of places around the West, and pursued an array of occupations. At the time of his death, he was part owner of an aviation business at the Las Cruces airport while holding down a full-time job as a lookout.

    Frank Merritt, a recent friend, recalled that, "John enjoyed transportation: whether it was airplanes, motorcycles, cars. He was into motion. But yet he spent a lot of time by himself, and was able to make the most of it."

    There were a dozen members of the Gila Forest fire crew in attendance, in black T-shirts: Leo Trujillo, Jesse Searles, Arnold Lopez, Patrick Garcia, and Keith Mathes among them. They all commented on what a good lookout Kavchar was. "He picked it up really fast," Trujillo said. (more at the link...)

  • Memorial Potluck Gathering: About a hundred people gathered to celebrate John's life on Friday, at 5 PM,  6/29 at the Walnut Campground in the tall trees on the Gila National Forest. It was was organized by John's fiancé, Teresa Beall. John's late wife, Miquette Magnusson, had also been a Signal Peak lookout.
  • Obituary


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